The owners of the collapsed, six-floor construction site in Kep province were released on bail by the local Cambodian court Tuesday. Many are calling for justice for the confirmed 36 people killed and more than 20 others injured.
Kampot Provincial Court spokesman Mann Boreth told VOA Khmer the court has charged the building’s husband-wife owners, Ek Sarun and Chhiv Sothy, with involuntary manslaughter.
He added that the investigating judge decided not to detain the couple and instead place them on bail for $90,000 and banned them from traveling outside the country.
"The investigation is ongoing,’’ Mann Boreth said. ‘’The decision is up to the investigating judge and the investigating judge decided merely not to detain. But the case is not yet ended.”
In response to last week’s collapse, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the site of tragedy and said no officials would be removed from their jobs, placing the blame on the construction contractors.
Civil society groups in Cambodia have called on the government to improve construction industry regulation.
Yun Phally, an investigator for rights group Licadho in Kampot and Kep provinces, urged the court to investigate with transparency, including those provincial officials that regulated construction in Kep.
“All these [construction regulation] issues are under the management of relevant provincial departments who need to be held responsible,’’ Yun Phally said. ‘’If the court finds that [those departments] are involved, the court has to take legal actions.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, organized by the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia and the labor rights group Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, also known as Central, civil groups called for the government to take action against the construction businesses and property developers who are cutting corners or behaving illegally during the current building boom and seek accountability for those responsible.
Sok Kin, president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, has claimed that about 900 out of 2000 registered construction companies have valid licenses.
Central’s coordination officer Khun Tharo is confident that transparent legal enforcement will improve the construction industry and is hopeful of the outcome: “I believe that the government will enforce the law without using [anyone] as a scapegoat or allowing anyone to escape legal responsibility as the government enforces the law.”
Officials at the national and provincial land management and urban planning agencies could not be reached for comments.
Tep Thon, head of a commission that has been set up to investigate the Kep building collapse, told VOA Khmer the investigation is on-going and there are no results yet to be publicly released.
Hem Sophy, the brother of a woman who died in the collapse, along with her husband and two sons, told VOA Khmer that he hopes the court will provide justice to his family.